A FORMER Celtic Football Club chairman told a court that the Celtic Boys Club was “an integral part” of the professional team’s youth squad.
Kevin Kelly spoke of the connection after he swore an oath as a witness in the trial of the now three-time convicted manJim Torbett.
The revelations come just days after they emergedThe FC wants to regulate the Boys Club Claims of abuse claimed the victims’ lawyers.
Mr. Kelly reported on the 1998 trialSheriff Court on his memories of Torbett founding the youth club in 1966.
Prosecutor J. Service asked, “Before you join the boardClub, Mr Kelly, did you know about the formation of the Celtic Boys Club?”
Mr Kelly, then 61, said: “I was aware that Celtic had a very strict youth policywhich was introduced by my late uncle, Sir Robert Kelly, and the Celtic Boys Club was an integral part of that youth policy.”
His comments are set out in a transcript of evidence given by Mr Kelly when Torbett was first charged with sexual offenses against football stars.
Documents obtained by The Scottish Sun shed new light on the close collaborationKelly enjoyed it with Torbett, who was then a wealthy Trophy Center boss.
Kelly goes on to praise Torbett as an “extraordinary fundraiser”, adding: “I think he was the best person at that time to raise sufficient money for the needs of the Celtic Boys Club.”
And in another extraordinary admission, Mr Kelly reveals he was asked to take on a role that “more or less linked” the senior’s career to the scandal-hit youth team.
He said he took on the role after former coach Jock Stein was unable to juggle his time as first-team boss and his voluntary work‘S with the boys’ club.
Mr Kelly told the court: “Around the mid-1970s, as I found out, Mr Stein had a lot to do with the main team and could no longer devote time to the Celtic Boys Club as he was honorary president, so he decided I had to “I resigned at that time and I was invited by the Celtic Boys Club and the Celtic Football Club to represent the club’s interests in the boys’ club, but not to attend every meeting, but only to be more or less associated.”
A spokesman for campaign group Spotlight said: “This is very significant as it shows that Celtic Boys Club was an integral part of Celtic Football Club’s youth system.”
“It comes straight from the former chairman of the professional club and former president of the boys’ club.
“If anyone should know about the connection between the professional club and the boys’ club, it’s him.”
Kelly told the court before Sheriff Gimblett that he was director of Torbett’s Trophy Center at the timeand has been for “13, 14 years” and is also honorary chairman of Celtic FC.
Mr Service asks: “I would suggest to you that the Celtic Boys Club was founded in 1966 by Mr Torbett. Would that be right?”
Mr. Kelly: “Yeah, right.”
Mr Service: “And Mr Torbett had contact with the Celtic board as early as 1966 before he actually founded the club?”
Mr Kelly: “I would assume that happened, yes.”
Mr Service: “How would you describe the relationship between the two organizations you mentioned, Celtic Football Club and Celtic Boys Club?
Mr Kelly: “It was more or less a feeder situation, we developed our own players (inaudible) within the club (inaudible).”
Mr. Service then asked Mr. Kelly to do thishow the Boys Club was funded, to which Mr Kelly replies: “That was done by Mr Torbett, who was a unusual.”
He was then asked whether there was an “official connection” between the board of the professional club and the board of the Boys Club – then led by Frank Cairney, 88, who was also later convicted of abusing young players.
Mr Kelly says: “No. Essentially what would happen is that Frank Cairney, who was the general manager, would consult with the manager of Celtic Football Club on football matters.”
The former chairman, now 85, told the court that he officially replaced Stein at the Boys Club at an annual awards ceremony in November 1977.
When asked whether he was aware of “any allegations” against Torbett.
Mr Kelly says: “No, no, I wasn’t aware of any allegations, but what I did notice was that there was a degree of political maneuvering within the boys’ club, but I think that’s par for the course at this level.”
“I think people tend to seek dominance on a committee in a situation like this.
“So in all the meetings I attended, there was always some tension, and there tended to be some tension within the committee.”
Mr. Service asks, “Were you aware of any Board meetings of the Boys Club at which certain allegations were made against Mr. Torbett?”
Mr Kelly insists: “No”.
Torbett, 76, was sentenced to three years in prison in April after jurors found him guilty of exploiting Gordon Woods in 1967 – two decades after his first conviction, when Mr Kelly testified.
Cairney was jailed for three years in 2019 for a series of attacksbetween 1965 and 1986.
Thompsons Solicitors represents 28 survivors in oneagainst Celtic FC – who insist the now-defunct boys’ club was a separate entity.
The company earlier this week welcomed the approach of the Hoops board, which faces a payment of millionsClass-action lawsuit from former hopefuls who claim they didn’t do enough to protect them from predators.
Thompsons said in a statement: “Celtic Plc has indicated its intention to enter into settlement negotiations as part of the Celtic Group Proceedings Litigation.
“This litigation relates to cases of historic abuse at Celtic Boys Club by convicted pedophiles James Torbett and Frank Cairney.
“Celtic Plc has not formally admitted liability or made any other formal concessions, but its desire to begin negotiations now to explore the possibility of resolving this claim has been made clear.”
Celtic confirmed that discussions with Thompsons were “ongoing”.
But Goalbetting victim Gordon Woods insists he wants a showdown with Hoops bosses that guarantees victims’ stories are told rather than silencing them with confidentiality terms in an out-of-court settlement.
Gordon said: “It has always been my aim to bring Celtic FC to justice and hold them to account for decades of suffering.”
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